Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sew Geeky Classic Anime Sew-along, Sailor Moon and the Return of the Minor Characters!

My absolute first anime was Sailor Moon in the 5th grade. I made friends with a die-hard fan who would print black and white copies of the character pictures for us to colour over. My favorites were the ones with Rini and her crazy pink hair (I see your lack of surprise at that one) and I was planning on making a dress of her Sailor costume. Sophie of course was having none of it. She did surprise me by insisting on being a princess, and a search gave us a beautiful picture of a Princess Kakyuu cosplay, skirt floating in the breeze. She was sold.

My version is less "Is that an actual princess?" and more t-shirts/dollar store/stash-busting chic, but I am dressing a 4 year old around here. I also had a goal of making as many wearable items as I could without loosing sight of the character. I have to say, I'm pretty freaking pleased with how it turned out! Sophie complains bitterly if I have to measure her or try things on but when I slipped that crown on her head last night I almost didn't get it back!

Here's a side view. It's made of two layers of black felt with the yarn falls sandwiched between. The pearls are a broken dress-up necklace and there are flower sequins down the front. The golden flowers are felt. This is the piece I took the most creative licence with. Small things, like the flowers are in her hair instead of being ornaments, the sequins are the wrong colours, there are no ear flaps on the hat. I had just sewn a tribal fusion belly dance headpiece the night before  and was still feeling inspired I, guess, because when I looked back at the drawings of her hat I suddenly pictured a headband and yarn falls.

The sleeves are separate pieces. These will make a great addition to the dress-up bin. They're just bits of old t-shirts; long red rectangle, two yellow triangles and black trim. I put some elastic in the top band to keep them up.

Here's a super special picture of Sophie asking me the 800th question of the morning, I mean of the top I made. I wasn't really pleased with how the tank top turned out so I didn't photograph it separately but I realized that her arms are in front of the design in the full length picture. So here is proof that her outfit actually looks right. The problem is mostly just that the top is too big. I tacked the straps shorter and tucked up the hem for the pictures but the straps were still too wide and slipping off her shoulders. (The hair hides the straps nicely for the pictures though!) To keep the top from looking costume-y (goal of useful shirt if you recall), I made the black stripe as a separate strip that I could just tie on over top. Good thing, it's holding the shirt in place in the pictures!

The skirt is a roll of sheer red "ribbon" that comes on a wide roll at the dollar store. I cut it into strips the length of her pants and tapered the ends. I sewed them in two overlapping layers to the waistband, another bit of t-shirt.

Here are the bloomers underneath. I basically just traced a pair of her pants and then doubled the width, with elastic at the waist and cuffs. Super quick and easy. I may have to make more for under her dresses, she loves them! Of course that's probably because of the super soft t-shirt I made them from and not a style preference, but I'll take it.

So there it is! I don't think I've had this much fun making something in ages, and Sophie was even sort of interested! Good thing I have healthy self-esteem, I'm already not cool. ;)

P.S. This morning's photo shoot was brought to you by marshmallows. I am not above bribery. Here is a peek at what ALL of the pictures would have looked like without them:

"I want short hair Mommy. You should cut this hair."   

Displeased that I didn't want a picture of the stick.

Her idea of a "nice" smile.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Christmas in July... Aka DIY Presents and a Big Family is Not for the Faint of Heart!

Are you appalled that I'm talking Christmas this early? Want to know something really scary? On a good year I start my present brainstorming list in January!

This is mostly because of the whole "big family thing". Add 15 relatives (parents, grandparents, siblings and their children.), my best friend, our Godbabies and their siblings (5), plus, you know, my own husband and children, and with only those essential people in our lives I'm almost at 25 people! (Oh yah, don't forget to add the 4 December birthdays in there!)  So don't panic. Chances are your list is much more manageable! Still, it's good to start early enough that the making is still fun, and not a last minute scramble. Just think I'm insane? Feel free to scroll to the bottom for some  kid present brainstorming cuteness!

So really, how is this not a completely insane idea? Some of my coping strategies are:

1. I don't put any pressure on myself to hand make a present for everyone. If I see something in a store that I think someone would like, I  buy it. If I'm running out of time, I go shopping. If I can't think of a good diy gift for someone, ditto. Last year we were at the end of Deacon's half-year of no sleep and I pretty much only made things for the kids. Christmas cards came from the dollar store and had one sentence and a signature in them. Deacon didn't have a stocking made for him. There were definitely some "oh well, that would have been nice" moments but I felt zero guilt over the things I didn't get to. Making gifts is a wonderful way to show you love someone, so would they really be happy if that object meant you didn't enjoy Christmas?

2. I group gift ideas. The grandparents usually get a variation of the same gift. Sometimes the parents get a joint gift, of similar things for both Mom's or both Dad's. The kids are usually grouped as well. One year I spent from spring to fall leisurely knitting/crocheting them all awesome hats (dinosaurs, owls, bunnies etc.). Sometimes I split them into smaller groups based on age, the older kids getting one present and the younger ones getting another. (Usually clothes. Under one or two they don't really need much else, especially if they're a sibling.) Sometimes I'll do something special for the Godbabies.  This way is just so much easier on both my brain space and supplies.

3. I start planning EARLY. I think that for me the brainstorming is one of the most fun parts. Especially now that I'm obsessed with Pinterest! I usually have a few pages in my notebook where I write out everybody's name and then as many good present ideas as I can think of. This gives me time to work on things as I find the time. It also spreads out the cost! When you buy supplies a bit at a time it's much easier on the budget. It also gives you time to find materials at a good price, if you have a supply list in your head.

4. Don't underestimate Kid Power! For the first time last year Sophie helped make Christmas presents. In a few cases this did mean more work. Sophie made cute little pirate-print cowls for her cousins that I sat down and helped her sew. We combined efforts for some of the others though. I bought plain wooden bird feeders that she painted, and then together we made hanging seed ornaments. This obviously took some work on my part, but not anything like the hours it would take to knit a sweater. On that note...

5. Don't pick projects that will take you forever! Unless you're a super fast knitter, or only have two people on your list, this may not be the time to make matching family sweaters. Mittens maybe. Sew an apron, not a coat. Write a beautiful letter or poem, not a novel. Bake cookies or make a spice mix, don't turn half a cow into jerky with a homemade smokehouse. (Unless of course you raise cows and have a yearly jerky making tradition.) Be realistic. Especially since anyone who doesn't practice your craft likely thinks it takes much less effort than it does. This is one of the dangers of making things yourself. Some people will be thrilled, others will think the scarf you spent weeks of your free time making took you an afternoon. Now, I do have exceptions to this rule. If you have someone very special to you who you know will appreciate something that takes longer than by all means do it. I often pick a larger project for Travis or our children.  Last year I had a special request to make a weighted blanket for one of our Godbabies. It took longer than any other thing I made, except maybe Deacon's sweater, but I knew he would use it.

So, as a reward for making it this far in my monster of a post, I'm now going to share some of the Pinterest ideas I have Pinned for the kids! Feel free to weigh in in the comments, especially if I make things for your kids!

How about fox socks? To wear while reading Fox in Socks?
Ravelry: Fox socks pattern by Laura Poikolainen
A free Ravelry pattern, found here.
Maybe a little suitcase?

Nr 152 :The Sidekick Suitcase Pattern
Pattern can be bought here.

I'm in love with this sweet little doll bed.
Doll basket made by Betsy, inspired by the tutorial (in French) by Mes petites bricoles here http://lesbricolesdesandrine.blogspot.fr/2013/02/tutoriel-couffin-au-crochet-en-trapilho.html
Pinned here.

Maybe with a dolly to put to bed?

Remembrance Day Soldier Free crochet pattern
Pinned here.

Oh wait, you were picturing something like this instead.
Bunting Doll - Our prizewinning bunting dolls come in three sizes, so crochet just the right size for your little one! Skill level: Easy  Doll size: 6, 8 & 11" (appx)  Designed by Patricia Westbrook  free pdf from freepatterns.com  I love these dolls.
Pinned here.

How about a game?
Mermag: Magnetic Figure Skater Toy DIY
Pinned here.

Let's not forget baby Hunter! This just stole my heart, but Jess would probably prefer a more gender neutral one. Or maybe crochet cowboy boots?
Sweet Hearts Baby Pants diaper cover - via @Craftsy
Pinned here.

I already know what Jess would like best though ;)

Bacon Hearts for Father's Day
Pinned here.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer? Pshaw! I'm Going to Make Sweatpants!

So what if we're expecting the hottest week of the summer? Why not ignore the fact that my kids could still use a few more summer clothes. Pretend I can't see the three backpacks I have cut out for Skirting the Issue.
Now is clearly the best time to be sewing sweatpants.

I blame the sleeves. The bag of sweatshirt sleeves leftover from the reversible animal hoods that was just sitting there, not fitting into my stash and looking just like the legs of little baby pants. I had to do it, that bag was just bothering me. Not having any babies in need of tiny little sweatpants, I had to get creative to make those narrow sleeves and the odd hood into pants big enough for the munchkins.

You can see that there wasn't enough of the checkered one. Good thing the brown one had a hood!
Which means they're kind of super warm leggings, since the separate bum panel was the only way to make them wide enough, even for Deacon. (This is of course the Fancy Pants legging pattern, the two above are size 2's for Deacon and the two below are 5's for Sophie.) I'm not sure about the panel on a kid Sophie's age so hers may end up as pajamas. I'll have to convince her to model them with a couple of different tops and see. (In what universe do  I think that will happen?)

 The waistbands are all cut from the original sweatshirt waistbands. The cuffs are the sleeve cuffs. Two are as is but for the other two I cut off and re-sewed the cuffs back on. For the white and brown checked pair the cuffs were just super long so I shortened them. For the pink pair they were stained so I flipped them backwards. For the grey striped pair I left them long. The theory is that Sophie can wear them rolled up this year and rolled down next. Super value pants! (Oh wait, they were free...)

Do you like my cleverly made project-hanging clothesline? Might as well use my new patio for something!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Grey Striped Romper

Aka McCall's M6726, without the crazy eyed sea creature. Also a new photo shoot location. Presenting: The Dresser!

Appropriate since this dresser is stuffed full of patterns and craft supplies.
I was looking for a boys romper with more of a vintage feel. Most of what's out there for boys are pretty sporty, or just onesies with legs and I really wanted something with more of a timeless feel. The sort of baby clothes that don't ever completely go out of style. This one takes a bit of imagination if you see the envelope. The silhouette was perfect but they updated it with crazy colours and giant animal appliques. (Not a criticism, that's the sort of baby clothes they sell in the mall and they need those same consumers buying them. I just wanted fancy things on a shoestring budget, which meant looking past the giant flamingo.)

The bottom of this hangs perfectly on the hanger, just like the drawing. It poofs out on the envelope model and I figured they just put her in the wrong size. Nope. The pattern runs long. Oh well, the way this kid has been eating lately he's probably about to grow again.

Unfortunately it kind of looks like a very short bubble dress at this length. Oh well. Grow child grow!

For the fabric I used some of the remnants I occasionally pick up from Lens Mill. The two pieces were both a dollar and change each and I have most of the grey and a chunk of the striped left. (Extra since I accidentally cut one of the back panels over a small stain.) The zipper was from a local charity fabric sale, I filled a bag with 10 different coloured zippers and 3 spools of good thread for a dollar. The pink zipper from the donut shirt is from the same batch, I've found having a small stash of notions really helpful since I'm such an impatient sewer. I did splurge on the pattern though. And by "splurge" I mean actually went to the fabric store, picked out a pattern and paid full price. Shocking, I know. Between free internet tutorials, my small collection of pattern books and most of a drawer full of pattern envelopes (most of them free or cheap from thrift stores), I rarely end up buying patterns. But I had a vision for this one, and good boy patterns are hard to find.

I do love the grey collar. And little bare baby feet. (He's still my baby. When I tell him he's a big boy he says "No. Bebe." )

What I did not love was finding a cigarette butt in the bottom of the picture. I was planning to plant herbs in that garden but as I was pulling out the weeds I realized the old tenants had been throwing cigarette butts in it. Other than that just being nasty, I'm worried about what that's done to the soil. For this year I probably won't get farther than picking out the garbage and planting some flowers. I'd like to do something to clean out the soil, or plant something that will help. Any suggestions?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Strawberry Season

So our Mom had the brilliant idea of taking all the kids strawberry picking while Jess was in town. Turns out Deacon is at an amazing age for things like that; old enough to love wandering around picking strawberries but not old enough to understand why he should wait instead of just stuffing them in his mouth ;)

This was how he looked leaving the farm. DJ is much cleaner because he was very industriously filling his berry basket. Only with berries that the bugs had eaten.

Mama's little helpers *cough*
 We were a little bit concerned that this outing would just end with us buying berries at the gate. We walk all of the way out to the field, put about eight berries in our baskets, and Sophie announces that she has to pee. Katie of course has to go to. So one adult down, roaming the fields in search of a potty. Hunter then decides it's milk time. Adult number two is now nursing in the strawberry patch, leaving Mom (adult number three) with the boys and the baskets. Until DJ needs to find a tree (the recently potty trained can't be trusted to hold it while hiking over food crops), so off they go with Deacon in tow. Approximate time spent vs berry count at this point: 25 minutes and twelve berries. (This is an estimate, as I was still peeing children while discussing pirates in the corner of a musty barn.)

Things went perfectly after that though. Hunter was chilling on the baby carrier, Katie played with her and picked berries. Sophie took the filling of her bucket pretty seriously and refused to pose for pictures unfortunately. (Also unfortunate is the fact that I didn't take any of these pictures. Mom was awesome enough to corral Deacon and take all of the pictures while still contributing to the berry basket.) We ended up leaving with almost more than we could carry!

Then of course we  had to stuff our faces with them and figure out what to do with 20 quarts of strawberries.

Mom went on a blitz and froze a good chunk of them that night. I canned the rest. Strawberry mint syrup and strawberry butter anyone?

P.S. What's your favorite thing to do with frozen strawberries?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Tribal Fusion Belly Dance Tops

As I was unpacking my dance things I realized that I'd never blogged about my other costume. I actually liked this one better, we were Inuit sea witches and it was amazing! I'd originally waited because I wanted to show the whole costume together but I never got any pictures of it, only group shots. There was vague talk of some of us holding our own informal photo shoot and if we do I'll post pics because the accessories were these crazy yarn falls that looked like seaweed with shells and sequins.

So obviously, this started as a bra. I started by lining the band because the lace was see-through. I bought ruffle-edged elastic in three colours (mostly black with enough purple and turquoise for the top rows) and sewed it down the cups in strips, leaving space in between each row. Then I embellished each space differently.
 From the top: 
Silver sequins; one sewed down, one on a loop to dangle and repeat.
A line of turquoise beaded cord 
A line of dangling coins with a silver sequin sewed down between each one
A double line of mini black sequin trim
A second coin row
A second (tiny) line of mini black sequin trim

Phew! More work than it looks eh?

And then of course the danglies. In my mind this distracts from my belly ;) Be smarter than me though, sew yours on to the outside of the top if you try this. I put mine inside because it looked better but it was uncomfortable and really, the audience is not that close. You can see them draping better in the picture below.

Oh the ever classy  bathroom selfie. I need  to invest in my own personal photographer. Or a full length mirror.
Like the shrug that went with it? Am I not amazing for making it? No? You must know the secret then. Ten minutes, a pair of pantyhose (the kind without the crotch piece obviously) and some scissors will get you your own pair. Cut off the toes and the waistband elastic, stick your arms in and snip just above the armpits until it's not too tight. The edges will stretch and roll to cover it. Ta da!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Teeny Tiny Pop-pom Quilt

Look! Isn't it cute and little?

I think I'll keep it draped right there on that couch. It's full of holes anyways. *cough cough lower right of picture cough* It was supposed to be slightly larger and therefore useful as a couch blanket since we live in a basement but I ran out of yarn. I only bought two balls when it went on sale because I was planning to make a small rug but my little project couch was just calling for a dose of colour. (You should have seen me couch shopping for our other little couch. I picked the one that came in turquoise.)

I didn't use a pattern, I just winged something like a simple doily. You can see above that the middle is denser and the outside more lacy. It was such a fuzzy yarn that and more complicated details would be lost anyways.

This is the yarn by itself. I have a pretty good length of it left because it wasn't quite enough for another round. I'm thinking of saving is as a garland because it's so pretty. This picture's a bit dark but did you notice in the top ones that I'd found the secret to passable photos? The shiny white(ish) holey couch (what a great backdrop lol) and co-operative sunlight. 

P.S. Sorry for the late post. This was sitting almost finished before the weekend but we went to the cottage and a blanket, even a teeny one, was just too bulky to bring with me. I'm half done the crochet project I did bring though and it's too cute :) 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Eating is Awesome! (My Fave Gluten Free Recipe's at the Moment)

So, not my usual fare but I actually really enjoy cooking when I can manage it without screaming children. I also really enjoy gluten but my stomach does not. I'm only gluten intolerant so I can cheat here and there but I feel much better all around if I don't. Which leaves the question of what on earth I can eat.

I have some things that I've found good substitutes for and others I just don't eat. Bread mostly falls into the second category. Every once in awhile I'll buy one of the tiny, expensive bricks they pass off as gluten free bread and keep it in the freezer for emergency grilled cheese days but that's about it. There are tons of recipe's out there that claim to actually taste like bread but they all seem to need half a dozen kinds of flour plus xantham or guar gum and I just don't care enough to play chemist. This can make lunch a bit more complicated though. Some of my favorite recipe's so far are:

 Recipe and photo from http://www.ourbestbites.com/2011/02/quick-brazilian-cheese-rolls-pao-de-queijo-2/ 
Brazilian cheese bread. I make this at least once a week. It tastes like something you'd eat on purpose, not a second best substitute.

Recipe and photo  from  http://www.livelaugheat.com/2010/03/11/3-ingredient-oat-flour-crepes/

Oat flour crepes are another good one that I've just discovered. Quick and easy. I like to add a bit of sugar if I'm making them as a dessert. She says you can use the plain ones as a sandwich wrap but I haven't tried that yet.

stack of banana pancakes
Recipe and photo from http://cookieandkate.com/2012/banana-oat-pancakes/

Banana oat pancakes were discovered by Jess and I almost refused to try them! I actually don't like pancakes but these are amazing. They taste like banana bread and are almost creamy because of the oat flour. Even if I woke up tomorrow able to eat gluten I would still happily make these.

Dinners I find easier. Gluten free pasta is easy to find, not too expensive and tastes just as good. It just takes a bit longer to cook and you need to rinse off the extra starch when you're done. Brown rice is also a new obsession of mine now that I can (usually) cook it properly. (Yes I know. Everybody can cook rice. Except me people. I'm special that way.) Also anything breaded like orange chicken or fried fish I keep a bit of the store bought gluten free flour mix for.

Dessert hasn't been too bad so far either. I like oat flour best for baking because it has a nice flavor. I substitute it in brownies and the only difference is that they're a bit denser. I also swap it for the wheat flour in my chocolate chip cookie recipe. I bake it in a pan like squares though because it won't rise when you cook it, it will spread out thin and crunchy on a cookie sheet. Or if I just want a some cake after the kids have gone to bed, this is a new favorite of mine; chocolate cake in a mug! ( Found here.) With icing if it was that sort of a day ;) I like using oat flour a lot I know but it's a whole grain that doesn't taste too "healthy" if you know what I mean. 

Do you have any gluten free recipes that you love? I'm always looking for new ones!